Most Disappointing Host Nations | Sporting Index
The Most Disappointing Tournament Host Performances
The mental and physical demands of playing through a major sporting event are exceptionally hard to overcome, and are only ramped up further when the added weight of being a tournament’s host comes into play.
Whether it be through the lavish spending needed to host an event, the sense of pride that comes from having the whole world on your doorstep, or the fact that there are undoubtedly benefits to playing in your own backyard that can wreak havoc on our spread betting markets, tournament hosts are subjected to a different level of pressure when they first take to the field.
So whilst there are obviously some great examples of teams romping to wins on home soil, we thought we would take a look back at some of the most disappointing host nation performances from every sport over the years.
England - 2015 Rugby World Cup
Having not won a Six Nations Championship since 2011 or a World Cup since that famous night in Sydney back in 2003, there was a lot riding on England’s performance at the 2015 World Cup on home soil.
Put into the same pool as Wales and Australia in the ‘group of death’, England’s World Cup preparations were dominated by discipline issues from star names like Manu Tuilagi and continued question marks over head coach Stuart Lancaster’s best mid-field. They kicked off their first home tournament since 1999 with a 35-11 win over Fiji at Twickenham, but the wheels soon began to fall off in the crunch double header against Wales and Australia.
Edged out 25-28 by Wales, England went into the game against Australia knowing that nothing but a win was good enough. What followed was Australia’s largest winning margin over England on these shores, the highest points tally they had ever racked up against them, and the first instance since 1991 that a host nation would not reach the knockout stage of a Rugby World Cup.
Australia won 13-33, and Stuart Lancaster’s side became the first English side, as well as the first former world champion, to bow out in the group stages. England just about managed to scrape together a third place finish in their group, but it wasn’t enough to save Lancaster’s job and he left his post in November of that year.
Brazil - 2014 FIFA World Cup
Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup was, it’s fair to say, controversial. For the people living in the country, the World Cup was seen as a lavish spending spree that the country either couldn’t afford, or should have been spending on improving living and working conditions around the country.
Winning the World Cup is an expectation at the best of times for the 5-time competition winner, but this expectation and pressure was ramped up another level in 2014 when the event did indeed roll over to Brazil.
Led by 2002 World Cup winning coach Luiz Scolari, the Brazilian side in 2014 was one of the favourites to win the competition.
Carried by an admittedly world class Neymar, Brazil just about edged out Mexico for top spot in their group, before taking on familiar opponents in Chile (winning 3-2 on penalties) and Colombia (by just a single goal) in the knockout stage. All of Brazil’s knockout goals were scored by defenders, and their already limp attack would take a further hit with the injuries to Thiago Silva and Neymar for the semi-final fixture against Joachim Lowe’s Germany.
The eventual 1-7 loss to Germany is amongst the most infamous matches in football history, and certainly the standout one from the modern era. The revelation that Germany actually ended up going easy on Brazil in order to save them some sort of pride rubbed more salt into the wound, and the response from the locals at Belo Horizonte was one of fury.
Including the 0-3 loss to the Netherlands in the third place play off, Brazil’s 14 goals conceded was the worst of any side at any World Cup since 1986.
Poland - Euro 2012
Poland-Ukraine were chosen as the joint host nations for Euro 2012, and both countries had reasons to be optimistic about their chances. Ukraine possessed a side filled with talented individuals like Andriy Shevchenko, Andriy Voronin, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, but were stuck in the group of death with Sweden, England and France.
Poland, on the other hand, were seeded into a group with Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic and had the luxury of picking from the likes of Lukas Piszczek, Wojciech Szcz¿sny, Jakub B¿aszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski. A lot was expected from this generational talent, but what followed was disappointing to say the least.
A red card to Szczesny in the opening game and torrid draws against Greece and Russia set up a must-win game against the Czech Republic, which Poland were still heading into as heavy favourites.
Once again overly-reliant on the trio of Borussia Dortmund players, Poland put in a performance that looked jaded, devoid of ideas and lacked any sort of focus and slumped to a 1-0 loss. Poland were forced to sit out the rest of the tournament on home soil watching other teams competing and were only one of three sides to not win a single game over the course of the competition.
England - 1999 Cricket World Cup
Though there were a few games held in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the Netherlands, the 1999 Cricket World Cup was primarily hosted in England. The 1990s were a period of decline for England on the whole, slumping to defeats to every side in the world and struggling to replace generational talents like Ian Botham, David Gower and Bob Willis.
Besides a couple of exceptions in Alec Stewart, Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton, it is widely seen as the darkest point in England’s cricket history.
However, 1999 marked an opportunity to break this downward spiral. Players like Graham Thorpe, Darren Gough, Nick Knight and a young talisman in Andrew Flintoff looked set to bring a more aggressive, fearless style of play to take on the likes of Australia and Pakistan.
This new-look squad and style made a promising start with wins over Kenya and a tricky Sri Lanka side at Lords to leave them top of a group also containing South Africa, India and Zimbabwe. Beat two of these teams, and England would be in the knockout stages with a newfound level of prestige and respect on the world stage.
England were then bowled out for just 107 at The Oval against South Africa, losing the match by a whopping 122 runs, and were then taken apart by an Indian attack at Edgbaston to leave their hopes suddenly in the balance.
Zimbabwe’s win over South Africa sealed England’s fate, and all the pre-tournament hype and hope was replaced by the familiar sensation of seeing England limp out of another competition.
Spain - 1982 FIFA World Cup
Spain were one of the biggest underperformers on the world stage at major tournaments by the time they were given hosting rights for the 1982 World Cup. With a squad containing players exclusively from La Liga, there was a nice blend of experience through the likes of Joaquin and Luis Arconada and more youthful inexperience through the likes of Miguel Tendillo and Ricardo Gallego.
Whilst the expectation wasn’t necessarily absolutely at the point of Brazil in 2014 for instance, there was a sense of genuine optimism around Spain that the hosts would be able to make a dent in the tournament and grace the likes of the Bernabeu and Camp Nou in the latter stages of the competition.
Drawn in a group containing Honduras, Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia, Spain limped to a final record of one win (2-1 over Yugoslavia), one draw (1-1 against Honduras) and one loss (0-1 against Northern Ireland) and leave them in a tricky second group stage against Germany and England.
The defeat to Northern Ireland at the Mestalla in Valencia was particularly grim viewing, with much of the pre-tournament optimism evaporating as the game unfolded.
They rounded off the tournament with another loss against Germany and another draw against England, bowing out of the tournament bottom of their group. Four goals scored in six games and just one win from those games was one of the most devastatingly disappointing showings from a World Cup host at that point, and it would take Spain another twenty-six years before they finally brought their trophy drought to an end.
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